Sunday, March 8, 2015

More stories from Tanzania

The "Relaxing" Afternoon at the Lake

Somehow we keep getting ourselves in a bit more of an adventure than we were originally expecting, so really we should not have been so surprised by the outcome of our Sunday afternoon trip to the lake. Near the village of Ivuna is a lake that some of us wanted to see. I knew I should stay put and sleep because I had been fighting a sore throat for a few days and I was starting to not feel so well, but I was assured that this would be a relaxing trip. We would take the land rover as far as we could. At the most we might have to walk the last mile or so. There were no mountains to climb either, so really it shouldn't be to rough. Why sleep when I could spend my afternoon at the lake?
The five of us that decided to make the trip and five native guys from the village piled into the land rover and roared out of the village. There was one small factor we missed considering. It had rained most of the morning leaving much mud in our path. We slid from one side of the road to the other and then back again. Soon the windows were closed to keep the mud from spraying inside, but we couldn't stay that way for very long or else we would all smother to death.
We turned onto a piki piki trail. Now we were blazing a road down a cow path, squeezing between thorn bushes and trees and sliding through slimy mud. We talked of turning around, but then the path would dry up so we kept going. Soon we found ourselves in more mud and once again wondering if we shouldn't just give up and go back. Finally we reached a place where it would just be too ridiculous to try to drive any farther. The narrow path through the tall shrubbery and trees was setting in water. Everyone climbed out and proceeded to remove footwear in preparation for the hike through a gooey mud. It was a bit of a challenge to stay upright while sloshing through the slimy goo. I tried not to think about what I was actually walking through. It smelled like cow manure...
Wearing flip flops through the mud made the going slow. They were constantly getting sucked into the mud and when pulled loose would spray ones backside with yummy chocolate the whole way up to the neck. But without them, there was no protection whatsoever from the inch long thorns lying in wait on the ground in between mud puddles. A small trial to be sure.

After about 3 miles, the lake came into view. It was a beautiful sight! Since it took so much longer to make the trip than we had planned for, we didn't stay long and soon started back.
I was feeling weary already and was pondering how I was to make it back. Someone had a piki piki up in that neighborhood and was making plans to head to Ivuna. We worked out a deal, then proceeded to watch as the driver fishtailed through some swampy ground. What had we just bargained for? Oh well, Beth and I hopped on and braced ourselves for whatever lay ahead of us. We had a good, cautious driver and only once did we nearly dump. The mud puddles were treacherous for the well-loaded, gutless piki piki and a few times we had to jump off because of getting stuck or just for safety reasons.
We were quite relieved to see Ivuna once again. Though very muddy, we had survived! ;) Now the memories from that afternoon bring smiles to our faces. There are no regrets in my heart. Sure, the sore throat got much worse over the next couple days. But you know what they say, “No pain. No gain.” Thank you!

Blessed Public Transport

Another fine adventure we were privileged to experience was traveling by lorry back to Mbeya. A lorry is a large truck used for public transportation for all manner of goods/supplies and people (and animals!). 
As we quietly stood by observing the loading process, we were quite amazed when a man led a cow to the back of the truck. How were they going to lift that beast onto the bed of the truck, which was at least 4 feet off the ground? Where there is a will there certainly is a way! 
A video to prove it can be done:  

Then came the time to push and shove your way up ladder and into the bed of the truck. By the time I got up there, all the possible seats were taken, and I was smashed between people. With time people started getting a bit more organized and eventually I was able to grab someones bucket to sit on near the side of the truck. I thought I had it made in the shade, until I was showered with some sand. I looked up at a pair of sandy sandals a few feet above my head. Every time the man shifted, I received another shower of sand. Great! This was going to be awesome! It was really to bad I was feeling so gloomy and anything but adventurous. If only this lorry would start moving... I needed some air movement. Eventually, we did start moving. The joy in my heart lasted only very short minute or two. For when the lorry began lurching forward and bouncing over the dirt road, the cow thought it more comfortable to stand on its four feet. Those nearest to the cow panicked and tried their best to lengthen the distance between them and the now stumbling-all-over-the-place cow. Suddenly I no longer thought so much of my perch on this small bucket which was now tipping over. I did my best to grab my friends bags that were being kicked about and were getting closer and closer to this nervous bovine. Lora was sitting on me and others were leaning over us. I was now laying on the woman next to me and trying desperately not to loose my mind to claustrophobia. The lorry stopped and someone tied the back legs of the cow to the side of the truck and once again we were jerking and bouncing down the road. Of course the beast couldn't keep it's balance and fell over. After what felt like forever we reached our first stop. I had to at least sit up straight to ease off the cramps that were coming on. So like all good Africans, I just started pushing people out of the way and ended up just standing up. The only place to stand that was half decent was behind the back legs of that cow. I'm not a cow hater and generally I'm not to afraid of them, but being trapped in a rambunctious truck next to a one is slightly unnerving. After about an hour and a half of such close quarters, we reached a stop, and I climbed out on the bars and worked my way to the front. I would much rather stand next to the mound of smelly fish, than next to a restless cow. The next stretch of road was through the mountains. It was decently rough and the luggage started really shifting. At first it was in my benefit because soon a nice seat appeared, but then my seat kept shifting till it had pinned my legs against the buckets in front of me. I pulled myself free and stood the remainder of the drive over the mountains. It takes a some skill to remain upright in such conditions without having anything solid to hold onto. Thankfully by this point, I had managed to unearth a bit of my adventurous spirit and was beginning to enjoy this crazy ride. I was thankful though to find a seat again. Having bodies smashed tightly around me on all sides was a plus because now there was no need to brace myself to keep from flying. At least relaxing was an option, and I even came close to dozing off.
Even though it was a great adventure and an awesome, unforgettable experience, I think we were all super excited when Mlowo came into view (four hours later). Would I do it again? Absolutely! And I think you should try it sometime, too.

Just a few more pictures from our time in Ivuna

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